Starbucks, Righteous Indignation, & The War On Thanksgiving

starbucksOn a cool day in the early spring of 2008 I ventured out into the world. This is notable because it was my first time behind the wheel of a car in over two years after having been laid up in hospitals & “skilled” nursing facilities and being homebound due to medical issues that I may have mentioned here once or twice and may or may not talk more about some other day. But since that is not the focus of my current mission I shall move on. At any rate, in the two+ years that I was out of commission (I call it My Unfortunate Incarceration) a couple of things had changed in my modest little hometown…we had gotten a Blockbuster Video and a Starbucks!! Now I realize that may not seem very stimulating to most, especially since Blockbuster has since gone out of business and every town in America seems to have multiple Starbucks at this point…but almost a decade ago this was a big deal in my world. First of all this town isn’t that exciting. It’s Mayberry-esque, except with meth clinics, unethical politicians, homeless people, & strippers. Secondly, I had been locked up alone & bored for more than two years. My life consisted of Becker reruns, nurses, & MySpace. Upon that initial re-entry into blockbustersociety just about anything would have seemed fun, and experiencing two places that I’d always heard about but never been to sounded awesome. Blockbuster turned out to be much like other video stores I’d frequented only twice as expensive. I never went back. And since there was still the slightest remnant of winter in the air & I’m not that much of a coffee guy I decided to get a hot chocolate at Starbucks. I quickly surmised that I had a box of Swiss Miss packets at home that tasted a lot better and were way cheaper. I’ve never been back and hadn’t really given Starbucks much thought…until recently.

 

There is a “controversy” brewing (HA!! Pun alert!!) due to the fact that Starbucks has apparently dissed Christmas and will be using plain red cups this holiday season.

 

O M G !! The HORROR!!!!

 

Y’all know I’m not big about in-depth research, but I am assuming a couple of things. First, I guess Starbucks writes the customer’s name on their cup?? Is this to avoid confusion?? Is it some sort of self-esteem/validation thing?? I have no idea. Secondly, Starbucks must have previously had more festive cups at Christmastime and has decided to go simple & basic this year, kind of like when Regis Philbin popularized solid color ties about 15 years ago.

 

jf2I gleaned the name thing from online “preacher” Joshua Feuerstein, a dude known for posting evangelically themed videos on YouTube. He’s what my old ESPN nemesis Colin Cowherd would call a “backward hat wearing guy”, a fashion choice that speaks poorly of an adult male’s maturity & intelligence (George Carlin once called it an abomination). On top of that Feuerstein evokes a faux radio/preachy voice and looks disturbingly like alleged actor Kevin James (aka Paul Blart Mall Cop). The combination is creepy to the point of distracting from his message, and now that message is a movement wherein one would go into Starbucks and tell the barista (is that the right terminology??) that their name is Merry Christmas, thereby “tricking” the server into writing Merry Christmas on the cup. Inspired?? Subversive?? Rebellious?? Clever?? Well, maybe if you’re a ten year old whose idea of cinematic genius is Jurassic Park or someone who ever thought boy bands were cool. To most of us grownups it seems a bit juvenile.

 

My man Rush Limbaugh calls our nation The United States of the Offended, and he isn’t wrong. Now, let’s be honest…there are things about which Christians have a right to be perturbed. God, Jesus, The Bible, & anything related to Christianity has become a bigger target with each passing year over the past few decades. That’s not imaginary. But questions arise. What exactly should offend us?? What should our reaction be?? My answers have evolved a bit over time.

 

As my friend Don pointed out on social media, folks have been disparaging Jesus since His birth. This is not a new thing. In the jesuslmb9th chapter of Luke, when Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village, James & John (aka the Sons of Thunder) wanted to call fire down on them from Heaven (the Biblical equivalent of a boycott), but Jesus wasn’t having it. As a matter of fact, He opined that He had come to save lives, not destroy them. He & His disciples simply walked away and went someplace a bit more receptive. This is something that Christians struggle with…me included. The fact is that not everyone is ready to hear The Good News of Jesus Christ. Some may never be responsive to the message. Does that mean that we just give up?? No…but it does mean that we may need to look in the mirror and re-examine our approach. I disagree with those who whine about Christians “shoving our beliefs down others’ throats”. I don’t think that is the accepted or prevalent methodology. It seems to me that proponents of “alternative”, progressive, deviant lifestyles & principles are much more vociferous in trying to standardize & promote their choices. However, we Christians sometimes get caught up in absurdity like coffee cups, and when we do it certainly doesn’t reflect well on The Lord or accurately communicate His wisdom. Perhaps if we focused inwardly, recognized the plank in our own eye, tried to better imitate Christ, & let our light shine before others, it would be a more productive & fruitful strategery.

 

It is true that political correctness has become a malignant blemish that is slowly eating away at the fabric of daily American life, and God is often the target of the PC Police. It can be frustrating. Yet Isiah 41:0 says “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God”. Jesus tells His disciples in John 16:33 “in the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” 1 Peter 5:7 instructs us to “cast all our cares upon Him”. James 1:19 says that we should be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”. Joshua 1:9 exhorts us to “be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. Exodus 14:14 says that “the Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace”. It is difficult to completely ignore some of the things that go on around us, but we can control our response to those circumstances. I’m not really into boycotts. In this particular case I plan on neither rejecting Starbucks nor telling them my name is Merry Christmas, mostly because I haven’t frequented the place in years and don’t see that changing. But there have been other situations…restaurants that promoted sociopolitical beliefs contrary to my own, actors or singers who spouted some kind of nonsense, retail outlets who donated to causes or candidates that I didn’t particularly like…and it dawned on me that cutting those entities out of my life hurt only me. Does anyone truly believe that a few people getting upset at a billion dollar corporation will elicit some sort of change in policy?? Maybe occasionally, but mostly it is empty, meaningless rhetoric. If it makes you feel better though, go for it…it’s a free country. To thine own self be true.

 

thanksA meme I saw online awhile back said something to the effect of keeping Christ in Christmas means feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, forgiving the guilty, caring for the sick, welcoming strangers, & loving our enemies. I’m not one to rail against many of the secular trappings of our modern Christmas. I dig Rudolph & Frosty, singing carols, drinking eggnog, lights on the tree, & buying nice presents for my family. However, all of those things do seem to have obscured the true meaning of Christmas for many of us. Not only that, but we are in such a hurry to get to all that fun & delight that we almost totally ignore Thanksgiving, which used to be one of our most sacred holidays. The early settlers would have multiple days of Thanksgiving in any given year and they’d spend those days in church worshiping & praising God for all their blessings. When was the last time we did that?? These days retail outlets don’t even close for Thanksgiving and it has been reduced to a parade, football games, a big turkey, & some pie. Gripe all you want about a “war” on Christmas, but ateast it hasn’t been ignored & forgotten simply because no one outside of Butterball, Macy’s, Kraft, & your local grocery chain has figured out how to make a few bucks from it. Myles Standish & William Bradford would be much more horrified by our flippant treatment of Thanksgiving than the lack of snowflakes & ornaments on a coffee cup.

 

In the book of Matthew Jesus talks about turning the other cheek. While I do not believe that this indicates that we should always let people run roughshod over us I do think it means that we should pick our battles and seek wisdom. Way back in the 1960’s The Byrds wrote a catchy little tune called Turn, Turn, Turn, with the lyrics being copied almost verbatim from the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes. In those verses we are counseled that there is “a time to break down and a time to build up”, “a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing”, “a time to keep and a time to throw away”, “a time to keep silence and a time to speak”. From everything that I have read the past few days most people with any sense don’t think that coffee cups are worthy of our outrage. It would be more…useful…to go into Starbucks or any other restaurant and buy some coffee or a meal for someone who would legitimately benefit from it. In the upcoming holiday season take time to smile. Wish someone a Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or even just a simple “have a nice day”. Appreciate the lights & music. Eat some pumpkin pie. Praise God. Worship Him. Watch Clark Griswold, George Bailey, Charlie Brown, & Ralphie. Love your neighbors. Pray. Ask for wisdom & guidance. Don’t get bent out of shape about trivialities. Drink a grande, non-fat, soy caramel macchiato if you want. Enjoy. Spoiler alert: Jesus wins. It’s going to be okay.

2015 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 10

football-introducing-the-science_1Greetings citizens!! Let’s jump right in by saying that both Zach & I were 2-3 last week. Could’ve been better, could’ve been worse. I continue to be amazed how accurately oddsmakers are in pinpointing a spread. I’m sure there’s a lot that goes into all of that. Thankfully I’m not much of a gambler. I wouldn’t like the stress. At any rate, for the season Zach’s record stands at 20-29, while your humble Potentate of Profundity fell to 32-17. I think we have some pretty decent games on the docket this week. The college football playoff committee announced their initial rankings, so now we’ll have a good idea just what games matter and what a win or loss may do for various teams. As far as the NFL, it looks like atleast a few divisions may be already wrapped up. Injuries have played a significant part in the…non-success…of several teams. I suppose that’s not unusual, but it seems particularly harsh this year for some reason. Anyway, let’s make some picks. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Florida St. at Clemson (-12.5)
Clemson tops the initial playoff rankings, and to be honest this looks like the only possible roadblock between them and the Final Four. The Seminoles Florida_State_Seminolesaren’t too shabby themselves, but a loss to now 3-6 Georgia Tech a few weeks ago has probably shut them out of the playoff conversation. First of all, I’m a little surprised by the points. You’d think Florida St. was a .500 team who’d lost games to 1-AA opponents, which is just not the case. If this game was in Tallahassee I may be inclined to pick the outright upset. However, even though it is in “Death Valley” I just don’t like the spread. Florida St. has an opportunity to knock off a #1 team and significantly impact the playoff…yet they are supposed to lose by nearly two TDs?? I don’t think so. Zach is on the same wavelength. He believes whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win, and he thinks that’ll be Clemson…but by far fewer than 12.5 points.

My Pick: Florida State
Z’s Pick: Florida State

 

 

 

TCU (-5) at Oklahoma St.
The powers-that-be obviously have little regard for the Big 12 (which has ten teams). Undefeated Baylor is ranked 6th, while the Horned Frogs are TCU Cool Logoundefeated also and ranked 8th. This is an opportunity for TCU to not only leapfrog Baylor, but also move up a couple of spots and patiently await other dominoes to inevitably tumble. The Cowboys aren’t an easy win though. They are undefeated too (I’m sensing a pattern) and 14th in the rankings. Too much probably has to happen that simply won’t for them to make it to the Final Four, but much like Florida St. they can play a spoiler role. Oklahoma St. has the home field, but TCU has a lot more on the line. I don’t think they’ll screw it up. Both myself & Zach are impressed with Horned Frogs’ QB Treyvone Boykin, and he is likely to make the difference.

My Pick: TCU
Z’s Pick: TCU

 

 

 

LSU at Alabama (-6.5)
Somewhere in Bristol, CT the entire college football lineup of talking heads is having a collective nocturnal emission over this game, and even I admit lsu_logoit’s pretty big. LSU is ranked 2nd right now, while Alabama is 4th, so this is essentially an elimination game. Some have opined that ‘Bama didn’t deserve to be amongst the top four, but I am neither surprised nor all that offended mostly because I know how meaningless all of that is right now. The Tide gets the home field points bump which is also just fine by me. I think this will be a low scoring defensive battle with lots of red zone stops and field goals. I’m not sure who’ll come out on top, but I’m confident that whoever wins will do so by less than a touchdown. Zach’s heart is with ‘Bama but he thinks LSU is likely to pull this one out.

My Pick: LSU
Z’s Pick: LSU

 

 

 

Miami at Buffalo (-3)
Sadly neither of these teams has a prayer of catching the New England Patriots in the AFC East. A wildcard berth isn’t looking too promising either. In Miami_Dolphins_Helmetmy NFL Preview I had positive thoughts about both clubs, but both have underachieved. The Bills don’t have a franchise QB, and the Dolphins have already fired their coach. Miami seemed to jump to life under the leadership of their interim coach until they ran into the hated Patriots who deflated the Dolphins since it’s kind of their thing. Buffalo has the slight home field advantage, but at this stage Miami feels like the slightly better team. I suppose that could be called damning with faint praise. Zach concurs.

My Pick: Miami
Z’s Pick: Miami

 

 

 

St. Louis at Minnesota (-2.5)
vikingshelmet1I predicted that the Vikings would be a playoff contender and so far they are looking good. The Rams are doing okay too. They St_Louis_Ramseven have a better record than the Seattle Seahawks (a situation I don’t expect to last). On paper this doesn’t seem like an appealing game, but it could prove to be rather important for the winner. I’m not ready to declare either team a serious Super Bowl threat, but they do both seem to be taking a step forward. Minnesota feels like they’re a notch or two ahead at this point. Zach sees this as a tossup but likes St. Louis’ rookie RB Todd Gurley to pave the way to victory.

My Pick: Minnesota
Z’s Pick: St. Louis